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Writing and the Amorphous Process

My selection for title was going to be ‘Here Comes the Thunder’, but it seemed wildly disjointed from anything I really wanted to discuss. Maybe another time.

I have talked a number of times about a writer’s process. How it is a personal a choice. Like the clothes you wear, the kind of person you are or the things you believe in. What I have come to find these past few months is that for me the process of writing shifts. A year ago, I had a pattern nailed down. I’d come up with an idea and write it down in a physical notebook. I would dream up characters and their attributes and add them in. After getting something down in the Moleskine I turn to the computer and start hammering out the story. After finishing one or more chapters (or the entire short story), print a hard copy, get the red pen and edit. Then make changes in the electronic copy. There was a rhythm to it, and it worked. I had a schedule and things were clicking right along.

Until they weren’t. Life is much like nature in that it will assert itself whenever it feels like it. Being able to adapt to the change is crucial. Prioritizing what is important in life is part of that. And I have changed as a result. I have done away with the notion of a deadline, honestly what do I need one for? I’m not a full time writer, so there isn’t an editor or publisher hovering nearby expecting a finished piece of work at a certain date and time. I understand that putting a date out there, as a personal deadline, does help drive you to finish the piece you are working on. I also get that the world is not going to collapse around me if I miss it.

My process is evolving. I have moved a little further away from the physical notebook toward Evernote. I take the lessons of feedback and apply them more rigorously. I plan a little more and try to fully develop an idea into beginning/middle/end. I try to be more focused when working on a story. I am trying to be more efficient, to make the best use of the time I have for writing while maintaining time for what is truly important, Family, Life, living for experiences.

I accept that change is inevitable. It is part of growth as a person. Change is also what drives a protagonist forward in the plot. So even as I participate in life, I am learning and improving.

— NEWS

In case you missed my re-blog, Chris Stocking is launching his latest book. Check out his blog for the details, including a Rafflecopter drawing. Regular followers of this blog are probably familiar with Chris’s name. I have interviewed him, talked about his work. It should be obvious that I am a fan. Well, I mention the Rafflecopter drawing because one of the prizes is my newest collection of Short Stories.

WHhhhaatt???

Yes, that is correct. I managed to put together another collection of stories, my favorites from QuantumMuse.com and this blog, plus several never seen before! I encourage you to hop over to Chris’s site and check out his writing, the drawing and The Black Powder Brigade. Who knows, you could be the lucky winner :)

But wait, there’s more!

‘Of Man, Myth and Automata’ will be released in Kindle format on October 7th! That’s right, you’ll be able to purchase and read the collection, on any device capable of running the Kindle software. Next week there will be more information, a cover reveal and expect a synopsis. I confess, I’m pretty darn excited about the collection.

So for now, be kind, keep reading and I’ll see you in a little while.

Steve.

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Black Powder Brigade Release Week Giveaway!

Christopher Stocking

It’s time for the Black Powder Brigade Release Week Giveaway! Enter at the link below to win either a free 25 page edit from my good friend (who is an amazing editor!) Karen Rought, or 14 free Kindle ebooks, including Black Powder Brigade! Don’t miss out!

(Note: This is my first time using Rafflecopter, so stick with me should there be any hangups)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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On a Tool Quest, I came upon Mt. Evernote

Let’s talk tools. Writers need certain things in order to write. The obvious ones are well, obvious. Pen/Paper, Paper/Typewriter, Computer. They take care of the serious work, The Writing. For me, I like a trusty notebook or journal. I’ve talked about Moleskine products in the past. They are, in my opinion, simply the best things ever. Every part of my writer-self is satisfied with a Moleskine. The touch, smell, heft, appearance and utility of a Moleskine is unsurpassed.

The notebook is indispensable for a number of reasons. First, it’s always ready. No batteries, no Wi-Fi or cellular signal needed. Pen, paper, ideas, Done! You can place it anywhere, table, nightstand, bathroom sink or desk. Anything can go into it. Written ideas, excerpts, thoughts, character traits etc. You can draw in it, make notes, put clippings in it. The Moleskine even has a pocket in most models and an elastic band to hold the book shut. As long as you have a writing implement it is ready to go.

It would appear then that the notebook/journal is just about the perfect tool. Some would argue that it is perfect. I will not argue against that. However, I believe that a writer’s tools are as personal as a person’s preferred means of learning. Some people are audio learners, others are visual, still others are a combination. You see the point? While idealistically I think the notebook is grand, for me it is flawed.

Yikes. What’s a person to do?

Well, for starters you have to be willing to try out different things. I am talking about basic organization. Maybe like me you have a dozen different notions going in completely different directions. I have found that unless I keep separate notebooks I start getting one story or plot mixed with others. Then it becomes more difficult to go back into the book to find what idea or notion I was after. Updating is difficult because pen and paper tend to be permanent.

What’s a disorganized, scatter brain like myself to do?

Evernote. Evernote is simply stated a notebook application. Of course, it is more than that. There are features on top of features. And I like it!

At its core, Evernote is an electronic notebook. But you can create multiple notebooks in the app. So instead of laying out cash for each Moleskine (or whatever notebook brand you prefer) you click a button and instantly have a new notebook. Personally, I have one for each major writing project.

Once you have a notebook in place the next thing to do is add Notes to it. A note represent what we are familiar with, a single page in a notebook. However, these notes are quite a bit more robust. You can add plain text, URLs, Images, whole webpages (using a browser tool called web clip), you can create lists and checkbox tasks.

Take a basic research trip to the internet with me. Say I want to know about the Chupacabra. Google Search brings back all kinds of results. I snag a few URLs and throw them in a note title: Chupacabra Links. That note is stored under an imaginary notebook: Tales of the Chupacabra. The note also has a Tags field. This concept of tags is pretty familiar to most people who use WordPress or other blogging software. A tag is a filter. So, I might tag the note with: ‘Research’ and ‘URLS’. Then if I want to find it later I can search by tag, or text. If I have the notebook selected, then a search is limited to that notebook, otherwise all notebooks are searched.

I mentioned web clip browser extension. I have it installed in Google Chrome. It is rather like Pintrest. You can clip part or all of a webpage and send it into your Evernote account. For me it makes research that much easier. Now I don’t have to fire up a browser, I can view a large selection of research material right in the application.

Evernote has gone far to make sure that they are easily available. I have the client software on a Windows 8 laptop, iPhone, Android table (which dual boots WebOS, and yes I have a version of Evernote on that too.) Not to mention their incredible web application. No matter where you are, as long as you have a computing device and a connection you can access your account and add/sync data. If you do not have a connection, but you do have a client application installed, you can work offline. Great if you need to jot down an idea at 30,000 feet for example.

I think one of my favorite features about Evernote is Email. When you create your account you receive an email address specific to your account. You can then email notes to this address and Evernote will add them to your account. Using the subject line you can specify the note’s title, the notebook it needs to be stored in, tags, reminder and if it is an update to an existing note. Some examples:

Basic Adding a new Note: Chupacabra Eating Habits @Tales of the Chupacabra #research #gross !tomorrow 

What that all means: The first part “Chupacabra Eating Habits” is the title. “@Tales of the Chupacabra” is the notebook, “#research” and “#gross” are tags that will be applied (if they exist…) “!tomorrow” is a reminder, Evernote will remind you about this note on the next day.

Updating a Note: Chupacabra Eating Habits @Tales of the Chupacabra +

See the new bit? Yes, the “+” sign tells Evernote to update our note on eating habits.

Reminders are a recently added function. They can be added in the web app, as well as the iOS and Android apps. Strangely, not in the desktop clients. Perhaps later. Reminders in conjunction with Evernote’s ability to turn a note into a to-do list, make for an excellent tool. An email will be sent the day the note is due if configured in the preferences. A popup on your client application will also announce the arrival of the due date/time.

A useful reminder might be a note telling you the who, what, when, where of a submission deadline or that your favorite TV show is about to start or that it’s time to feed the cats.

I have to admit, I am a pretty big fan of Evernote. It hasn’t replaced my Moleskine in my heart, but I am finding that I use it more and more as time goes by. Oops, I almost failed to say, Evernote is a pretty huge fan of Moleskine too. In fact, so much so that Evernote teamed up with Moleskine and released a pair of Evernote Moleskine notebooks. One with lines and one without (more for the sketching artist type.) What they do have is teeny-tiny little dots making up a grid. If you take your smart phone, open the Evernote app, you’ll find on the create a note page a camera button. Click that little sucker and take a picture of the notebook page. The image file will be uploaded into your Evernote account. And thanks to the magic of those little dots, your handwriting will be parsed and indexed. Meaning your can search through the handwritten text! The whole process is pretty fast and really amazing. The Evernote Moleskine also comes with a sticker sheet. The stickers are predefined tags (things like: home, work etc..) Which you can configure in your apps settings, so you do not have to stay with the factory defaults.

There are two types of accounts, free and premium. Free allows for 60 megs or so of storage space on their server and there is an allowance of data sync, per month. With the premium account you get access to notes offline on all your devices w/o network connection, additional mobile security, upload 1 gigabyte a month, search with PDFs, Note history, share notebooks. 5 bucks a month, or 45 for a year. I haven’t taken the plunge just yet. You can check out the differences here.

There are a whole host of Evernote products, all of which are pretty interesting in their own right. You may want to check them out at Evernote’s Site.

In closing, writing tools are a personal choice. Everyone has their own prefered method. Because a basic account is free, I would encourage you to investigate Evernote and see if it can be of use to you.

Thanks for reading!

Steve.

I’m a Bad Blogger.

Don’t let the title mislead you. It is not that I have not wanted to blog. It is that I wanted to blog something useful. Alas, things have been hectic and time has not permitted me to make too much progress on the last installation of the Ignatius St. Eligius series. Rest assured that it is progressing! Albeit at a snail’s pace. With said snail carrying a five pound pack, through the salt marshes, surrounded by sea gulls. Hungry, mutant sea gulls…

But I digress.

There are several topics that I want to touch on and I made up my mind that I would write a post for each of them. In no particular order they are: Evernote, Word Counts, Juggling multiple projects. I will be writing a post for each (as time permits) 0_o 

I want to take a moment here and recognize my family. They see that writing is important to me, and encourage me to do so. My wife especially. She is a true objective critic and unfailing champion. She helps make the writing happen by accomodating it and creating a special time (when needed) to get some done. I hope that everyone who works at any artistic endeavor has at least one person in their life who wholeheartedly backs them. Failure does not seem so much like failure (more like a good lesson learned) when there is someone cheering you on.

To the supporters a big THANK YOU!  

Thanks for reading.

Steve.

Espresso Express

Good morning!

Ever get jumped up on espresso, grabbed your rocket and just Hit IT? Well little kitty seems to have found out what she likes. Big kitty has found what he does not like. Enjoy!

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I apologize for the not so great image, cell phone and poor lighting. What are ya gonna do?

-s

The Process of Processing

I have been thinking about my process as a writer. I know this topic has been discussed several times in the past here on this site. I am going to focus on a couple of items today. My process for  and moving toward all digital writing and editing of a work.

It seems that as time progresses we evolve the tools available to us for writing. However, having the technology available does not guarantee that we will use it. Why is that? Is it ingrained behavior, that it has become such an integral part of our process that we refuse to change. Is it simply a matter of preference, we like it that way so we do not concern ourselves with updating our methods.

In this digital age do many people still write their works in progress on paper? I do not. Even at the time I learned about writing in school MS-Word came on a set of 5-1/4 inch floppy disks. Everything was by hand, written on paper and maybe, possibly, typed up on a typewriter.

How far we have come. I use a program I wrote for myself to create the outline of my idea. It allows me to create the story’s structure, main characters, conflicts, motivations, virtual corkboard and write scenes. In fact this piece of software is where The Ignatius St. Eligius series comes from. Well, the first draft anyway. Once I have the rough draft of a chapter written, I save it out to a MS-Word file (or insert any word processing software here.) There, I do a fast pass over the text for spelling, grammar and paragraph formatting.

This brings me to my next question:  Of those people who use a computer for their writing, do you edit electronically or print a hard copy and grab a red pen? Sadly, I engage in the deforestation (albeit at a slower rate since I use recycled paper) of the of woodland creature habitats. I cannot help but print a copy, and start reading the chapter, pen in hand. Again, this is ingrained from when I was in  school – It is learned behavior. I make notes, I strike out text, highlight sentences that need to be moved/changed and add new pieces. After that, everything has to be entered in the Word document.

Generally, I try to only print one copy of the chapter. Recently though I found myself printing three copies of a short story as I went through the editing process with an actual editor. (Side note, working with a kind and fair editor is a blessing. I learned immediately and the overall quality of the piece went up several notches.) Having those paper drafts laying about made me consider my process as being flawed.

I mean we talk about the digital age and paperless offices. While it is true, we have entered the digital age and are firmly ensconced there. The paperless office is still something of a myth. It’s all unicorns and rainbows as my home office can testify. For me seeing the words on paper and reading them in very near book like format (i.e. on paper) allows me to visually understand what I am proof reading. I can sort out little issues and big with a couple of marks from my red pen. Going completely digital would require me to learn the proofing tools in MS-Word (or other word processor.) I am not complaining about learning, nor am I incapable/unwilling. It is simply that I prefer to work on paper for my editing process.

Several months ago, I posted about an online text editor called: Draft . It is a totally online editor with versioning capabilities and the ability to save copies of your work to cloud services like Evernote.  The downside of Draft is that it requires a modern browser, which I do not always have access to. I like Draft enough that I intend on writing a complete work on it, and will also come up with a review. It is a tool designed to remove paper from the equation, make the writing simple and focused. Draft has features that are focused on improving the process of writing and tracking changes to shared documents.

There’s the rub though, I do not share documents. Well, so infrequently that I might as well never share documents. I can think of two at the moment. After working away on Draft, which has no real text features other than spellcheck, I came to realize that I need something somewhere in the middle, perhaps. I do need to do more testing and research with Draft. My thought being that I can use Evernote to organize an outline and characters and Draft for the main writing. In that way, avoiding paper altogether.

Anyway, let me wrap this up by saying: Your process is your own. If it works for you, great! If you want to seek out change, awesome. Whatever you do, as long as you are able to write and follow your own process then it is working for you.

Thanks everyone for stopping by and reading along. Feel free to pop over to the comments section and weigh-in on your process and what you like / dislike about it.

Steve.

Longer Then Previously Thought

So… Yeah little bit of a hiatus going on. That’s ok though these things happen. I am plugging away at the next installment of Ignatius St. Eligius, it has gone slowly. Glacial even. I have spent some of the time rewriting a short story and another piece sketching. Each day I try to put some down in the sketch book, and I am trying to make it cat themed and cartoonish. Here’s the latest character to pop out.

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